How does this Virtual Reality Device Work?

How does this virtual reality device work? Being hot or cold in virtual reality is already possible with this device

Can you imagine being able to feel the cold of Siberia at the beginning of The Rise of the Tomb Raider? Or the Caribbean heat in away cry 6? Well, it looks like it will soon be possible. The technology that is already here, according to reports from new scientists is probably one of the most immersive that we know so far.

According to the aforementioned media, the technology was developed by Jasmine Liu, Jas Brooks and Pedro Lopes, members of the University of Chicago. Moreover, they use a type of chemical to control the temperature and transmit it to the human body. They called it “chemical haptics”, and with it we may experience various sensations when using the device. Among them, “heat or cold, numbness or tingling”, they evoke.

We recently showed you how a group of researchers managed to imitate the sensation of kisses in virtual reality. Now they’ve managed to replicate the heat one. The outcome of both might impress us in the future.

“In a technology called chemical haptics, they’ve built a wearable device that, when placed on the skin, can make the user feel a range of sensations – hot or cold, numbness or tingling.”

new scientist

How does this virtual reality device work?

As described on the web, it is a soft silicone patch that people can wear on the skin of their extremities. This patch contains a stimulating liquid, the purpose of which will be to reach the user’s skin. Thanks to micro-pumping, the chemical passes through the silicone and reaches the support thus offering a different sensation depending on the liquid used.

As the project document explains, the team behind this product worked with many chemicals to provide different sensations. Thus, we know that they are able to offer long-lasting results at safe doses.

Among the chemicals tested, we have the following:

  • without school: Provides a tingling sensation.
  • lidocaine: Used to numb the area.
  • Cinaldehyde: causes an itching sensation.
  • capsaicin: Provides a feeling of warmth.
  • Menthol: Provides feelings of cold.

These stimulants have long been helpful in understanding touch, the most complex of the human senses. In the 1990s, studies of capsaicin, a chili pepper extract, and menthol, found in peppermint, helped us determine how our bodies react to heat and cold.

Now Jasmine Lu and her colleagues at the University of Chicago are using this knowledge to create chemically induced sensations to make virtual environments incredibly realistic.

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Besides, the team tested the different chemical sensations on several subjects. Their response was quite positive, ensuring that the VR experience was much more immersive with the substances than without them.

Sure, this technology could be the future of video games. Imagine being able to feel the effects of the weather all around you; or even other less pleasant sensations. The sky’s the limit, and titles where immersion is paramount – like horror ones – could very well take advantage of this if they know how to do it.

However, it seems that is not all. This same group is also working on electrical muscle stimulation technology. With it, they intend to change the sensation of the user depending on the object they touch, another of the thresholds that virtual reality will have to cross if it wants to deserve its name.